Managing Grief in the Workplace
CEO & Founder
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Co-Founder & Co-CEO
Mindy Corporon, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Workplace Healing, has dedicated her career to helping business leaders navigate employee life disruptions. Learn how Mindy’s network showed up to support her during intense moments of grief.
“Relationships saved our life. And so relationships are crucial. When you find yourself not being able to breathe, or eat, or function, I think that is when relationships just have such a high importance.”
Alana Muller 0:00
Before we begin, I want to offer a content warning. This episode contains sensitive content that may be triggering or disturbing to some listeners, and includes discussions of traumatic events, specifically, violence against minorities and even death. Listener discretion is advised.
Alana Muller 0:26
Welcome to Enterprise.ing, a podcast from Enterprise Bank & Trust that's empowering business leaders one conversation at a time. Each week, we'll hear from top business professionals about lessons on leadership and entrepreneurship that they've learned along the way. I'm your host, Alana Muller, an entrepreneurial executive leader whose primary focus is to connect, inspire and empower community. We at Enterprise Bank & Trust thank you for tuning in to another episode.
Alana Muller 0:54
Hello, listeners, welcome back to Enterprise.ing podcast. My guest today is Mindy Corporon, co-founder of Workplace Healing and pioneer of the Human Recovery Platform™, which helps innovative corporate leaders transform how they support employees who experienced life disruptions. Mindy's vision for Workplace Healing was born from her personal tragedy followed by a difficult reentry into corporate life. She was at the pinnacle of her professional career as the CEO of a successful wealth management firm and in the middle of raising two talented boys when her father and oldest son were murdered by a white supremacist, intent on killing Jews. Her life purpose changed from guiding people financially to shaping how initiatives focused on how increasing confidence and leadership can positively impact culture. Hi, Mindy.
Mindy Corporon 1:42
Hi, Alana. Thank you.
Alana Muller 1:44
Thank you. Welcome to Enterprise.ing podcast. Before we dive in, I think it's important for our listeners to know that this is no ordinary Enterprise.ing podcast for me. You and I have known each other for a very long time, I say a long, long time. And in fact, I have the privilege to serve on the board of a not-for-profit that you created called Seven Days, which seeks to overcome hate by promoting kindness and understanding through education and dialogue. Our listeners should probably know that though we are not related, I think of you as family. So I'm very delighted to have you here today.
Mindy Corporon 2:17
Thank you. I also think of you as one of my sisters that I don't have biologically. So I have two brothers biologically, but a lot of non-biological sisters.
Alana Muller 2:26
Exactly right. Exactly right.
Mindy Corporon 2:28
You're not just on the board of directors. You started volunteering for Seven Days as soon as there was anything happening. So you have been involved in that since 2014.
Alana Muller 2:39
A long time. And we knew each other well before that. I guess with that as the backdrop, Mindy, if you would tell our listeners more about Workplace Healing, which you started with another dear friend, Lisa Cooper, and why the two of you decided to launch the company.
Mindy Corporon 2:53
Yes, thank you. Well, as you said, I experienced a tragedy, and many people in the Kansas City metropolitan area will understand if I say, "Where were you on April 13, 2014, when a grandfather and his grandson and another woman were murdered?" And people will say, "Oh," and their eyes raise up and I say, "Those are my people." So, my dad and son were both murdered, and our lives were shattered, completely shattered. And I went back to work at Boyer Corporate Wealth Management for four years. But along the path, I knew that my passion and compassion had changed. I found Lisa Cooper along the way, I think because of you, you introduced me to Lisa Cooper in 2015...
Alana Muller 3:39
Yes, I did.
Mindy Corporon 3:39
…and then, yes, so you connected me with my co-founder. And then in 2018, I sat Lisa down and said, "There is a problem in corporate America." Leaders do not know what to do or say to their team members, their co-workers, their associates, their right-hand person, when they've experienced a life disruption. And my life disruption is huge. It is very significant. People try to compare their grief to mine and I say, "You should not do that." There are life disruptions that are called divorce, that are called a stillborn baby, that are called the natural occurrence of a parent dying. There are all types of life disruptions. COVID-19, we all experienced...
Alana Muller 4:25
Mindy Corporon 4:25
...that life disruption. So we created Workplace Healing, focusing on leaders and leadership. We speak to the leaders, it is not our intent, we don't now and we don't intend to speak directly to the griever. A lot of people speak to the griever and that's fantastic. I am a griever. And we want to speak to the leadership and help them with their employees, help them re-enter their employees back into the workplace, offering empathy and compassion as I think they want to. They just need some guidance. And that's what we do with human interaction in a B2B SaaS platform.
Alana Muller 5:01
Which is so remarkable, because I mean, so a few things that you said just trigger some thoughts for me. I mean, first of all, it can be awkward, right? It can be awkward. You and I have had lots of conversations about that, about what do you say to somebody? How do you express empathy and compassion, while also recognizing you have a business to run? And how challenging that can be.
Mindy Corporon 5:20
Absolutely. And I think that's why I'm like the best person to have put this together. And I don't know that I'm at all the only person who has had this idea. But I was the co-founder and CEO of a successful wealth management firm. And my life was shattered by grief. And I had to come back to work and wear the grief hat and the CEO hat. We're a small company, so I was HR as well. And so my team would tell you that we spent a lot of time talking through, "Well, what does this look like? What should I say? What should I not say?" And then, Alana, other leaders in town, other executives in my network started asking me, you know, “how did you onboard? What should I do?" And asked me, "Can I talk to you about grief? Can I talk to you about this employee who lost her spouse?" So I found myself doing that and realized that there was a problem here. And that's what we're addressing.
Alana Muller 6:11
Which I so appreciate. And you know, what's interesting about it, you talked about the magnitude, the depth of your loss, and the shock of it all, or I mean, just so many reasons. But what I appreciate is that you talk about also the fact that, let's not, we don't have to engage in comparative suffering, it doesn't have to be my suffering is worse than your suffering, or your suffering is worse than so and so's suffering. When we suffer, we're suffering. And we all need to have the supports around us to contend with whatever that grief is, whether it's the loss of someone or something, or a major change in our life. I think the fact that you're providing leaders with those tools and guidance is significant. So I appreciate that you're doing that. Talk a little bit about what types of organizations you engage with. Who are the kinds of customers? Not necessarily names, but what types of customers and how do they interact with your platform?
Mindy Corporon 7:07
Yes, so I'm gonna get really vulnerable here, because this is an entrepreneur podcast. And I'm going to explain that we have been going client-direct. I'm going to explain something that many entrepreneurs face, that you go down a path, and you think it's working. And it seems like it's working. And it's so exciting. And then one day, you look back and say, "It stopped working. When did it stop working? What happened?" We do have nine clients, and we love them all dearly. And we're very grateful for them. And we service all nine of them. And they are using our Human Recovery Platform™, which is the B2B SaaS, but as a company, we have realized that selling into the HR department is extremely difficult. Because, Alana, our HR people, they are one-armed paper hangers. There needs to be more people in the human resources department, then there are anywhere else. And I know all CEOs everywhere and all CFOs are cringing listening to me. But I'm telling you, if you allow the heart of your company to suffer as much as we are seeing that these, you know, humans, they need more capacity, they need more help, they need... I just, I look at that. And I feel for all of them when we talk to them.
Mindy Corporon 8:23
But as a company, as Workplace Healing, we are finding it difficult to go directly into the HR department. And so what we're doing and I'm super excited to announce this, we are now looking at employee assistance programs, and PEOs, and then employee wellness organizations, for the best fit for Workplace Healing and our Human Recovery Platform™. Now, the way that it's put to use is you manage someone, Alana, you have someone that you manage on your team, and you receive a phone call at 2 a.m. in the morning, and you're told that this someone, let's call her Sarah, that her child has just died. And her child died, and you're just thinking, "Oh my gosh, it's two in the morning. I've got to talk to Sarah, within the next few hours or tomorrow, what am I going to do? What am I going to say?" And that's why we transitioned from only consulting to a platform, to a software platform. So, if you've already got Workplace Healing on board, and you’re a client or your EAP has Workplace Healing, you could just log right in and build a plan for Sarah. And so that is how it's put to use. It gives you the tools of, an idea of what to say and what not to say. And then what to do. It gives you thoughtful consideration about how to re-engage Sarah, and then you can also put it into action very quickly.
Alana Muller 9:46
So great. So essentially, leaders will have ready access. They do have ready access to a platform with all kinds of guidance, resources, tools, and the ability to build a platform or plan specifically for that employee based on their needs and their particular, I would call it "form of grief," I suppose, is that a good way to say it?
Mindy Corporon 10:05
Yeah, so what we've done with our current client base is we, we have the opportunity, and they do to be specific about what they want their managers to select. So, we call it “a head- and heart-based conversation.” We want to instill a head-based conversation, which is ROI, which is coming back to work, which is how do you come back to work, and also, what benefits is our company already offering. And so we have a head-based, we have head-based tactics that are specific to what the company offers. So the leader, the manager can see, "Oh, my company already offers this EAP, or this employee resource group, or this is my life insurance, etc." And then on the other hand, is the empathy, are all the empathy tactics, and that's the empathy conversation. What to say, what not to say, and how to engage your employee so that you're more nurturing and compassionate. But we give permission to have a head- and heart-based conversation at the same time. Because they do really need to and probably want to be valued at work, even though they've had a grief event.
Alana Muller 11:06
I so appreciate that. And the explanation is great. And I, I think the fact that you have pivoted in a way that still honors the mission and the intent and the import of workplace healing, but you're able to get to more clients, more people who need your services, I think is really brilliant. So thanks for being vulnerable and for sharing that because I think all entrepreneurs need to understand that need to pivot when things are not going as they anticipated.
Mindy Corporon 11:32
Yes, thank you. We started this pivot in late September, and we've made numerous phone calls. We're really working hard to get into this distribution channel. And I just want to say thank you so much to Alternatives EAP, they are our first contract as an employee assistance program. And we feel very confident that they won't be just the first very, very long, but we'll have more coming alongside them. So big shout out to Alternatives EAP. Employee assistance programs have gotten a bad rap. We've heard that over the last five years that there are many employee assistance programs that don't fit the bill, employees don't want to go to them. So, we avoided them as well. And now we're looking back and saying, "Now that COVID has happened, they are a need and there are some great value found in employee assistance programs. And we feel like we're going to find that and our clients will too in Alternatives EAP."
Alana Muller 11:56
So great. Well, I want to use that as sort of the launch point, you know, that my whole thing is about relationships and the importance of building meaningful, authentic, long-term, mutually beneficial relationships. So, with that as kind of the backdrop, in addition to your involvement with Workplace Healing and Seven Days, I know that you are also the author of a book, “Healing a Shattered Soul,” in which you share the story of your family's struggle, the way that you are able to engage with your faith community and your commitment to courageous kindness. How do you tie together these various facets of your personal and professional life and in what ways have relationships played a role in advancing your work?
Mindy Corporon 13:03
Well, I will tell you, relationships saved our life. That's how I will start, I will start there with some tears. Relationships saved our life. And so relationships are crucial. When you find yourself not being able to breathe, or eat, or function, I think that is when relationships just have such a high importance. And then you value them with your whole heart forever. I have to tell you, when I run into women and men who came alongside us immediately and then within months after losing dad and Reat, these are men and women who met Lukas, our son who was 12 years old at the time. And when they see him now at 21, about to graduate from the University of Arkansas, they tear up because that was a broken young man, that was a broken child who spoke at his grandfather and brother's funeral.
Mindy Corporon 14:07
And then those people they... I couldn't drive him to school. I couldn't buy his funeral clothes. I couldn't walk the dog. And so relationships, this is why we have relationships. We have relationships to sit and have a coffee, to enjoy the beach, to maybe go fishing with, etc. And those are all extremely meaningful. But when life and all of the negativity hits the fan, that's when they are sewn tightly. Now, cross referencing Workplace Healing, Seven Days, “Healing a Shattered Soul,” all of that together… I will tell you one funny episode. I believe Lisa Cooper and I were — I always call her Lisa Cooper because there's so many Lisas in my life. So, Lisa Cooper and I were chatting about something, Workplace Healing, of course, and she said to me, not in a negative way, she just said, "That feels very Seven Days-ish to me,” like something that I was talking about, maybe marketing or how to say something. And I said, "Well, that's because that's where it comes from." You know, it's all... to me, it's all very...
Alana Muller 15:12
It's all the same.
Mindy Corporon 15:14
It's all very woven together. We should learn about one another. So that means as humans, and as employees and employers, we should care about one another as humans first, as employees, employers, friends, relationship, we should consider that people typically do lead with good intentions, and stop and ask curiosity questions. So, that's in every day when you're driving in a car, or you're standing in line at breakfast to get food or whatever you're doing, and that's at work. And so it's just, it all crosses around. And we just had World Kindness Day yesterday. That's just what most of us want. Most of us want more kindness. And so that does weave together from “Healing a Shattered Soul,” to Seven Days, to Workplace Healing.
Alana Muller 16:01
Well, yes. And, you know, one of the things I often talk about is that our lives don't have to be so compartmentalized, we can have just one life. And that includes a variety of facets, right? It doesn't have to be just one thing. So, you know, the fact that you borrow a tactic or an idea or a strategy from one part of your life, and you apply it to another part makes perfect sense. So, I think the fact that Lisa called it out and recognized it as actually, it's useful for you, too, right? To see where it comes from.
Mindy Corporon 16:31
Alana Muller 16:32
But I think it's totally fair game, to borrow it from one part of your life and use it in another.
Mindy Corporon 16:36
Mhm. And I'm thoughtful about that. I think I am much more thoughtful about that. I didn't do that as well, when I was at BCWM, at Boyer Corporate Wealth Management, I didn't. I think it was too early in the pain. It was too early on, in 2014 to 2018 when I was there, and it was a struggle, because I needed to have the ability to have that new need for healing and compassion and empathy flow as freely as it does now in my life. Because now I am completely in control of how much that kindness and empathy and compassion flow from whatever it is I'm doing, etc. And there are amazing connections. So my nephew, Andrew, is going to join a board meeting tonight, because I have the capacity and the ability to say, "Yes, you can join this.” Well, he's joining it, because he's in CAPS. And he's in CAPS because he wants to learn how to be an entrepreneur. And so they're all these different connections.
Mindy Corporon 17:35
And he said, “Aunt Mindy, I'm looking to join a business meeting.” And I said, "Well, we're having a board meeting tonight. So, let me get you on the board meeting tonight." So he's going to be an observer in the board meeting tonight. And, you know, that's what the Kindness Youth Leadership Team are for as well. And I'm digressing into Seven Days — we have a Kindness Youth Leadership Team. And our goal is to help them be kindness influencers. To help them understand that, really, as humans, we have a responsibility to be kind to one another, and to expect other people to be kind to us, and to respect those around us. So, I'm excited to be able to connect the dots for people, I think I do a lot of that.
Alana Muller 18:12
You do. And honestly, I mean, I've always, you know this, I've always called you sort of "otherworldly" the way that you have taught me to contend with and manage grief and difficult situations has been very meaningful in my life. But, you know, as you talked about, working your way through grief, when you were at Boyer Corporon, one of the things that I think, that you didn't even know you needed is you needed to sort of get through that grief and to process it yourself, before you were able to really articulate where you were in your life, in your heart, in your mind. And I think you've done that. You did it through your book, you do it in your conversations, and the fact that you are able to make those connections and connect the dots with something like your nephew saying, "I need this opportunity." You say, "Well, I've got an opportunity for you." I think that's really exciting, actually. So, bravo to you.
Alana Muller 18:59
Tell me this, what's the best advice you have for professionals who are facing challenges in their work? How do you... how... you know, you've talked a lot about overcoming your own obstacles. What do you say to entrepreneurs to help them to emerge as stronger leaders?
Mindy Corporon 19:16
Great, yeah. So, what I've learned is, it's helpful to have advisors and I say that in a plural sense. I know many people hire a life coach and a coach and I am not at all against that, I'm for that. But, I also think that we should reach to people with different skills other than our own. And I say that again, in a plural sense: “skills,” not “skill.” I was very lucky to be accepted into Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program in 2010, as the CEO of BCWM and I had a mentor who is Lee Harris, but I also had mentors. And, while I had some direction and a directive of one person, which was nice to have this focus and someone to kind of keep me on track and keep me accountable, there were other mentors available. And what I found is that people really do want to be asked to help. Most people want to help.
Mindy Corporon 20:08
Now, I do have a very interesting story and I won't digress. But, if anybody wants to know, there was a woman at one point in my industry, who told me, "No." She would not help. She literally said to me, when I asked her for help, she said, "No, you're trying to steal from me. And I won't do that for you." And so that has happened to me. Not everybody says yes, but I will tell you, I think she's the only person who has ever said no, and quite so blatantly, no. But most people will help and so, from the way you ask the question. Gather advisors around you… ask… I call them, you know, your board of directors, even Lukas, my son, I say, "Have you asked your board of directors? Because mama and daddy are not the only people on your board." And so, I think it's important to have people on your board of directors or your board of advisors, who are five, 10 and 15 years older than you are, and with different skills, different skill sets from different genres. And then someone who is younger, who is, you know, maybe a little odd and crazy, and you're like, "I can't believe they're doing this or that." But go ask them because, you know, we don't want… I'm 55. I don't want to be that old person one day saying, "I don't want to change this, or I don't want to do that." I'm already doing that. I don't want to learn Tik Tok, I will not put Tik Tok on my phone, for a variety of reasons. Anyway, so yes, I think it's important that we have a board of directors, a board of advisors and that it's plural.
Alana Muller 21:30
I love that. And well, one of my questions for you. It was going to be, do you have mentors? And I know, I know the answer is yes. And you answered it beautifully. So thanks for anticipating my question. So, you have that great advice for others. What's the best piece of professional advice you've received?
Mindy Corporon 21:44
Oh, my dad told me this. It wasn't really intended to be professional, but I've made it professional. He said, "Never be afraid to fail. Never be afraid to fail." And when I get fearful, I say to myself, "What does failure look like? How bad is it going to be? How long is it going to hurt? Who else might it hurt? What are the ramifications? Okay,” and then I assess it and say "Okay, don't be afraid to fail. Go for it."
Alana Muller 22:13
I love that. I love that. So, he's still influencing you every single day.
Mindy Corporon 22:16
Very much. Very much. Yes, being an entrepreneur and now the owner of a B2B SaaS, I say that weekly. Don't be afraid to fail, keep going. There's a lot of hard work, but I love it. We're so passionate about it. And we're super excited about where we are in the empathy and compassion world and what's happening, how many people need that mental health and mental wellness after traumas. And, we are just so ready and poised to be put into place, put into action. So, just keep paddling. That's what we're doing.
Alana Muller 22:54
You're paddling. 100 percent. You and I have discussed this as well. But you know, I always sort of wrap up my podcast with one question, this age-old question, and it's my favorite one and I'm already... you and I… you didn't tell me what your answer was going to be, but I am anticipating… but the last question I always ask my guests is: If you could have coffee with anyone, one person, living, not living, fictional, nonfictional, who would it be? And why?
Mindy Corporon 23:20
Yeah, that would be my son Reat. Yeah.
Alana Muller 23:23
Mindy Corporon 23:23
You know, we are, we're supposed to lose our parents naturally. You know our parents should pass away before we do and I miss my dad significantly. And I do feel like my dad and Reat talk to me through so many different messages, songs, and birds and butterflies and people and food and all types of things. But if I were given that opportunity to have coffee with Reat, he would be my person.
Alana Muller 23:50
Mindy Corporon 23:50
He would be my person.
Alana Muller 23:52
If I can have coffee with Reat, I would do that, too.
Mindy Corporon 23:55
Alana Muller 23:56
He was a very special young man.
Mindy Corporon 23:57
Very special young man, yes. That's, yeah. When I heard your podcast before, I thought, "Oh, she's gonna ask me that question and I am going to cry through that." But yes, he would be 24 right now, and we expect that he would be in medical school right now, that was his intent. And so we can think about that, but we know we need to keep on living, as long as we're given the opportunity. And my personal goal is to continue making a difference in the world, continue helping people through their own life disruptions, their own trauma, their own grief, so that they can become the best themselves.
Alana Muller 23:57
Amazing. I'm gonna leave it at that. That was really beautiful. So, I want to thank you for being part of Enterprise.ing podcast, and thanks for being my sister.
Mindy Corporon 24:42
Alana Muller 24:43
You're an important person in my life. And I'm just so glad that the world gets to experience a little bit of Mindy Corporon, so Mindy Corporon, tell our listeners where they can go to learn more about you, about Workplace Healing and about Seven Days.
Mindy Corporon 24:57
Yes, well, as an entrepreneur of Workplace Healing, I'm going to talk about that first. So it's WorkplaceHealing.com. We also have a really robust LinkedIn, Workplace Healing is on LinkedIn. Personally, you can find me on LinkedIn, Mindy Corporon C-o-r-p-o-r-o-n, and then Seven Days is s-e-v-e-n-d-a-y-s.org. Our 2024 events are April 10 and April 14. I'm sure many of your listeners will be seeing our social posts that we're going to be commemorating the 10th year and we're looking for people to participate.
Alana Muller 25:29
Mindy Corporon, thanks for being part of Enterprise.ing podcast.
Mindy Corporon 25:33
Thank you, Alana.
Alana Muller 25:36
Thanks for joining us this week on Enterprise.ing. Be sure to visit our website, enterprisebank.com/podcast to subscribe so you'll never miss an episode. If you found value in today's program, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or telling a friend about us. Enterprise.ing, powering business leaders, one conversation at a time.
Alana Muller 26:01
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